IRL: Indy Aurora V8: One Year After

MEDIA CONTACT: Rick Voegelin/High Performance Communications 408-761-2201 FOR RELEASE: September 20, 1997 INDY AURORA V8: ONE YEAR AFTER Lansing, Mich.; Sept. 20, 1997 -- One year ago today, Oldsmobile's Indy Aurora...

MEDIA CONTACT: Rick Voegelin/High Performance Communications 408-761-2201 FOR RELEASE: September 20, 1997


Lansing, Mich.; Sept. 20, 1997 -- One year ago today, Oldsmobile's Indy Aurora V8 racing engine ran for the first time in an instrumented dyno cell. In the twelve months that have passed since that historic test, the Indy Aurora V8 has achieved remarkable results on the race track.

Indy Aurora V8 engines have won every pole, won every race, and led every lap in the seven Indy Racing League events contested in 1997. Oldsmobile won the Indianapolis 500, and has already clinched the inaugural IRL Manufacturers Championship. A victory in the IRL season finale in Las Vegas on October 11 would give Oldsmobile a perfect record in its first year in Indy car competition.

The Indy Aurora V8 has exceeded even the most optimistic expectations of its creators. "The achievements of the Indy Aurora V8 engine have far surpassed Oldsmobile's projections," said Dennis Weglarz, Oldsmobile specialty vehicle manager. "The Indy Aurora V8's success has been a tremendous addition to Oldsmobile's centennial celebration." (On August 21, Oldsmobile became the first American automobile company to celebrate 100 years in business.)

The development of the Indy Aurora V8 has been rapid and dramatic. Eighteen weeks after its initial dyno test, the engine scored Oldsmobile's first Indy car victory when Eddie Cheever, Jr. won the Indy 200 at Walt Disney World on January 25, 1997, in the debut of the IRL series' new 4.0-liter production-based engine formula. Four months later, Oldsmobile won the Indianapolis 500 in its first appearance. In the fifth race of the year at Pikes Peak International Raceway, the Indy Aurora V8 reached a reliability milestone when not a single engine-related problem was reported by teams using Oldsmobile motors.

Unlike traditional engine programs in which a manufacturer works with one or two hand-picked teams to develop a new motor, Oldsmobile and GM Motorsports engineers have worked with nine independent engine builders, 22 teams, and 40 drivers in 1997 -- an unprecedented level of support by a first-year Indy car engine supplier.

In contrast to restrictive engine leasing programs, an IRL team can purchase a complete Indy Aurora V8 for a specified price ($75,000), and can rebuild, sell, lease, or modify the engine (within the limits of the IRL rules) at its discretion. In this open engine market, the Indy Aurora V8 has emerged as the dominant power in IRL competition. Oldsmobile engines were the choice of 96 percent of the starters in the last two races.

"The dominance of the Indy Aurora V8 shows that if you have a product that can demonstrate its superiority, you can capture the market very quickly," commented Joe Negri, GM Motorsports IRL and Road Racing Group manager. "We have produced 200 Aurora Indy V8 block assemblies to date, and we estimate that IRL teams currently have 150 engines in service. We have caught up with the demand for parts, and we are on schedule to produce 300 complete engine kits by December.

"The Indy Aurora V8 has shown us how to do race engine programs quickly and efficiently," Negri noted. "Two of the challenges of the program were to design and build a brand-new competition engine in a very compressed time frame and to meet a specified price target. That is something that is done routinely in production engines, but it's relatively rare in racing. We had to make hard decisions on cost vs. value while still meeting our performance objectives.

"We also gained valuable experience in managing a total engine program," Negri noted. "GM engineers had the responsibility to design or to coordinate the design of 100 percent of the Indy Aurora V8's components. The success of this program has given us confidence that we can take on any race engine program in the areas where we see General Motors competing in the foreseeable future."

While racing may have improved the breed in the past, the production Aurora V8 reversed this trend: The street engine inspired the competition version. Technical features that were once found only in purebred competition engines -- dual overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, and light alloy construction -- are standard in the Aurora V8, which is available exclusively in Oldsmobile's flagship luxury performance sedan.

"The growth of the IRL series has provided an excellent opportunity for Oldsmobile to showcase the Aurora's advanced powertrain technology," said Dennis Weglarz. "The tremendous spectator turnouts at IRL events in Fort Worth and Charlotte showed that the series is bringing new fans to open-wheel racing. Oldsmobile is proud to be a partner in the development of the IRL series and looks forward to continuing the Aurora V8's success in the arena of Indy car racing."

One year ago, the Indy Aurora V8 first roared to life under the watchful eyes of a handful of apprehensive engineers. Now 12 months later, millions of racing fans have seen the Indy Aurora V8 win the world's most famous auto race and earn its first Indy car championship -- an auspicious beginning for Oldsmobile's second century.

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E-mail from: Rick Voegelin, 19-Sep-1997

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Eddie Cheever